Municipal Offices
48 Washington Street
South River, NJ 08882
732-257-1999

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Information on Vacant Properties in the Borough Header

The Borough of South River's Vacant Property Registration Ordinance

On September 11, 2017, the Borough Council passed Ordinance 2017-17 that will require owners of vacant properties to register their properties, and after November 9, 2018, pay an escalating annual fee for registration and require property owners to maintain the property in compliance with municipal codes. The full text of the ordinance is available here (.pdf). For further questions, please call our Borough Administrator.

Resources

Vacant Property Info Sheet
Vacant Property Registration Application
Vacant Properties Ordinance

Vacant Properties in the Borough

Our borough likes to see properties being active and utilized. The Great Recession contributed to a lot of real estate challenges around the country and we are experiencing many of those same issues in South River. Unfortunately, many properties around the borough sit vacant, in many cases in a dilapidated state, and the neighbors are the ones who suffer. We want to encourage vibrant neighborhoods with property owners that proudly care for their curb appeal. We passed a Vacant Properties Ordinance to codify these values and to begin rectifying the challenges facing our borough.

The Vacant Properties Ordinance

The Vacant Properties Ordinance enables the borough to take several actions to ensure the beauty of a neighborhood that are often inhibited by vacant properties. In many cases these properties are bank owned and in those cases, failure to maintain these properties are a calculated decision that neighbors pay for in the form of decreased neighborhood beauty that often times lead to property value reductions. The Ordinance is designed to tackle this issue. While we have no interest or power to force owners to sell their properties, the Ordinance provides incentives that encourage owners of vacant properties to activate or sell their property to another who will.

Beautification Fund

The moneys collected from these efforts will be placed into a South River Beautification Fund designed to provide the borough with funds to address some of the property issues around the borough. We are working on administering these funds in creative ways to provide the greatest benefit to residents and neighborhoods. The overall goals of the Beautification Fund will be to ensure funds are immediately available to address dilapidated property issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a property considered vacant?

A building or structure is considered vacant if it is not legally occupied or at which all lawful business or construction operations or residential or other occupancy have substantially ceased, and which is in such condition that it cannot legally be re-occupied without repair or rehabilitation.

I am between tenants. Is my property considered vacant?

If the property is habitable, e.g., all building systems are in sound working order, the building and grounds are maintained in good condition, and the property is being actively marketed by its owners for sale or rental, it will not be considered vacant for purposes of this ordinance. As stated above, if necessary and legal construction operations are being undertaken, the property shall not be considered vacant for purposes of the ordinance.

I got a notice about this ordinance, but my property is not vacant!

The Borough is working hard to inform all property owners of their obligation if their property were to become vacant. If you are sure that your property isn't subject to the ordinance, no action is required. For clarification and questions, call the Borough Administrator at (732) 257-1999 x120.

When does the ordinance take effect?

The ordinance was passed on September 11, 2017 and goes into effect sixty days thereafter, or November 10, 2017.

What are the fees?

Initial registration: $500
Annual renewal: $1,000

Note: For registrations made in the first year (November 10, 2017 - November 10, 2018), the registration fee will be waived to provide property owners time to understand and adapt to this change.

How much time do I have to register my vacant property?

Within 30 days after a building or lot becomes vacant, the owner shall file a registration statement.

Can the registration fee be waived?

For the first year following the effective date of the ordinance, owners will not be required to pay the registration fee. The Borough will be evaluating this program and if, after this year, it appears that certain situations might present the need for an extension or exemption, we will consider such a proposal at that time.

I’ve heard I need to post a “registration sign” on my vacant building. What is a “registration sign?”

Owners are required to post a sign on the structure with the name, address and telephone number of the owner or the owner’s authorized agent for the purpose of service of process, and the name, address and telephone number of the entity or individual responsible for maintenance of the property. This sign shall also be present for public safety purposes. The sign shall be at least 8”x 10” in dimension, shall include the words “Warning: This building is secured pursuant to the code of the borough of South River. Anyone entering this building without authorization will be subject to arrest,”, and shall be placed in a location where it is clearly legible from the nearest public street sidewalk. This sign will be provided from the Borough of South River upon execution of the registration statement.

Are there any other requirements in addition to registration under this ordinance?

Yes. The additional requirements are:

  • Ensure that all bushes and trees are trimmed and that they do not interfere with neighboring properties.
  • Ensure that grass does not exceed eight (8) inches in height and that all grass clippings are removed from the lot when the grass is cut.
  • Be clear of all vehicles: cars, boats, campers, etc.
  • Sidewalks must be maintained and be cleared of snow, ice, tripping hazards, obstructions, garbage, litter and debris.
  • The owner or owner's agent shall perform regular weekly inspections to ensure compliance with the ordinance.
  • The Property shall not contain any space utilized for the storage of any junk, rubbage, waste, furniture, building materials, flammable liquids or any other materials not intended to be used in the existing building.
  • Any yard area shall not be utilized for the storage of any materials unless said materials are being used on site for the renovation, construction, repair or demolition of said building.
  • The boarding up of doors and windows shall not be permitted except with the permission of the Code Enforcement Officer. When allowed, doors and windows shall be boarded up and covered with no less than one-half-inch exterior plywood or equivalent and be painted the same color as the body of the building. In no case shall boarding up of doors and windows be permitted in excess of six months.
  • Any yard area (front, side and rear) shall be cleared and maintained free of trash, solid debris or any other materials that cause litter and accumulate to an unhealthy and blighting proportion.
  • Any infestation issue shall be resolved expediently upon notice and certified by a professional exterminator with proof provided to the Code Enforcement Official.
  • If there are any doors or appliances in the structure that prevent an individual’s escape, such doors shall be locked or removed in order to deny entry.
  • Every foundation, exterior wall and exterior roof shall be kept in sound condition and good repair and be able to perform all duties normally expected of them.
  • No stagnant water shall be permitted in the yards.
  • The Property shall have all utilities turned off and/or disconnected, with sewer service to be sealed at the trap of said property.
  • The exterior of the premises shall be maintained so that the appearance of the premises and all buildings thereon shall reflect the level of maintenance in keeping with the standards of the neighborhood so as to not constitute a blighting factor for adjoining property owners or an element leading to the progressive deterioration and downgrading of the neighborhood with the accompanying diminution of property value.
What happens if a property owner fails to pay the registration fee or maintain their property in accordance with the ordinance?

Any person who violates any provision of this ordinance or of the rules shall be fined not less than $250.00 and not more than $1,000.00 for each offense and every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Moreover, fines assessed under the ordinance shall be recoverable from the owner and shall be a lien on the property.

What does the Borough intend to do with the fees collected under the ordinance?

The South River Beautification Fund shall receive all funds associated with vacant properties to be used shall be used for the purpose of ensuring that aspects of maintenance of properties and other spaces that are neglected can immediately be addressed.

I have a question that wasn't addressed here.

If you have additional questions, please contact our Borough Administrator at (732) 257-1999 x120.